URBANA — Students in the Urbana High School choir are preparing to make their final fundraising push for a trip to Walt Disney World, even if they don’t care much about Disney.
“I honestly hate theme parks with a passion,” senior Kaila Juday said. “I hate concrete, Dippin’ Dots, roller coasters and the amount of sweat and germs that gather on me, so the fact that I’m going is a testament to how much I love choir, my director and my fellow musicians.”
Exploring the House of Mouse and nearby Universal Studios will be part of the trip to Orlando, Fla., but that’s not really why director Becky Park wants the choir to go.
She’s looking forward to having them work with different directors, experience recording in a studio and build bonds within the group.
“That strengthens any choir, you know, choirs that are filled with kids that actually like each other make better music,” Park said.
That bond was already visible within the choir as they rehearsed Queen’s “Somebody to Love” in class Monday.
After each run of the song, the students were quick to compliment each other’s performances, saying “That was so good” or, in typical Gen Z fashion, “We slayed that!”
Juday said those moments when the music comes together and the group could enjoy singing together were the best parts about being in choir.
“There is something very magical and therapeutic about singing in group settings,” Juday said.
This positive feedback from the kids involved inspired their parents to start the Urbana High Choir Boosters last year.
While this Disney World visit will be the biggest trip the choir has gone on, Park has planned many others during her nine years at Urbana High.
In the past, she was pretty much doing the planning and fundraising all by herself.
“This lady needs some support. She’s awesome,” said Kathy Kew Lee, whose son J.J. is in the choir.
This is J.J.’s first year in choir as a class, so Kew Lee didn’t join the boosters until this year, but they had gotten to know Park last year through the Urbana High a cappella group.
Kew Lee was in choir during her own time in high school and said that she has loved giving her son the chance to meet new and diverse people through the group.
“We’ve just been so impressed with Miss Park’s attitude,” Kew Lee said. “She’ll do anything to give the kids a positive experience.”
A lot of the final batch of funds raised will be for students like J.J. who just joined the choir this fall and weren’t around for most of the fundraising period, which began last year.
The trip will cost each student around $1,800.
The kids have done most of the fundraising themselves, bringing in around $10,000 from a car wash, restaurant partnerships and singing at different events.
Rather than trying to coordinate travel, lodging and events herself — which has been a “headache” in the past — Park used a travel agency that made a payment plan for the trip.
The final payment is due toward the end of October, just weeks after the silent auction, which will need to bring in several thousand dollars for all of the students to be able to go.
Kew Lee said the boosters have had an extra challenge in fundraising because the organization is so new that it doesn’t have a roster of donors to reach out to yet.
“We’re really looking for community support, because we love how accessible choir is to everyone and we want this trip to be accessible, too,” Kew Lee said.
Students will participate in the silent auction too, offering services they can provide, but the current goal is to get some local businesses to donate gift cards, services or products.
“We’re just trying to put as much into the account as possible to uphold our promise to these kids,” Park said. “We’ll get you there somehow.”
The silent auction will happen alongside the choir’s Oct. 12 concert at the high school.
Supporters can bid in the auction, donate money directly or hire the choir to perform at an event.